News From SEC Basketball Media Days:
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) – The Latest on Southeastern Conference men’s basketball media day (all times local):
Former NBA standout Jerry Stackhouse is back in school – now as a coach.
Stackhouse, who played for 18 years in the NBA, is a first-time college coach at Vanderbilt after receiving an offer he couldn’t refuse.
Stackhouse says he “had some interviews lined up for possible NBA jobs. My mom always said a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.”
Stackhouse is one of the SEC’s four new head coaches.
The first-time college head coach was joined at SEC media day by Alabama’s Nate Oats, Arkansas’ Eric Musselman, Texas A&M’s Buzz Williams.
The other new SEC coaches have longer coaching pedigrees, if not nearly Stackhouse’s resume as players.
Williams led the Virginia Tech program from 2014-19. Oats led Buffalo to three NCAA Tournaments in four seasons. Musselman spent the past four years running Nevada’s program and is a former NBA head coach with the Golden State Warriors and Sacramento Kings.
Kentucky coach John Calipari says the launch of the SEC Network five years ago merits some credit for the league’s basketball resurgence.
Calipari said Wednesday at SEC media day. that “now all of a sudden everybody’s facilities, travel and all the other stuff is catching up and we’re all in the same boat now” thanks to the SEC Network revenue distributed to each of the 14 league members.
Calipari added that the coaches and administrators throughout the league have made an effort lately to make sure “basketball in the SEC’s going to be as good as anybody in the country.”
The SEC received seven NCAA Tournament bids last year and got eight invitations in 2018.
Calipari says, “I remember when we’d get two to three in and I said our goal was to get eight or nine in and everybody laughed at me.”
LSU coach Will Wade is back trying to build on a season when the Tigers won an SEC regular season title.
Asked Wednesday at SEC media day if there was any doubt he would return, Wade said: “I felt good about things.”
LSU suspended Wade through the postseason in the wake of a Yahoo report about excerpts of an FBI wiretap that captured Wade speaking with Christian Dawkins, who was convicted of funneling illegal payments to the families of college basketball recruits.
LSU reinstated Wade in May, two days after the coach met with school and NCAA officials.
Wade says “it was a difficult time, but I was always in communication with LSU. … I felt like once we could get to the table with everybody that things would work out and we’d be here.”
The coach says he is “excited to be back and excited to coach LSU and looking forward to continuing to do that for a long time.”
Tennessee coach Rick Barnes says that he believes “the final chapter of my coaching career is going to be in Knoxville.”
Barnes nearly left Tennessee for UCLA after leading the Volunteers to a Sweet 16 berth last season. Barnes said afterward that he probably would have left if UCLA officials had been willing to pay the buyout owed as part of his Tennessee contract. UCLA hired Mick Cronin away from Cincinnati instead.
After agreeing to stay at Tennessee, the 65-year-old Barnes received a hefty raise enabling him to make $26 million over the next five seasons.
While discussing the likelihood he will stay in Tennessee for the rest of his coaching career, Barnes praised the Volunteers’ fans. Barnes noted how Tennessee fans were supportive early in his tenure when the team wasn’t as successful as it has been the last two seasons.
Missouri forward Jeremiah Tilmon says extra film study has helped him as he tries to reduce the foul trouble that has hindered him throughout the first two years of his college career.
Tilmon says that he’s been focused on doing all the fundamental tasks necessary to avoid fouls and stay on the floor longer. The 6-foot-10 forward has fouled out 10 times each of the last two seasons.
When he’s on the floor, Tilmon has been a difference maker. He averaged 10.1 points and 5.9 rebounds last season.
Missouri needs a big season from Tilmon as it attempts to outperform preseason expectations. Tilmon said he got a smile on his face when he saw the SEC media picked Missouri to finish 13th out of 14 teams in the league because “it adds fuel to the fire.”
Florida forward and Virginia Tech graduate transfer Kerry Blackshear Jr. says the persistence of his new teammates helped him select the Gators over a host of other Southeastern Conference suitors.
Blackshear, the SEC preseason player of the year, considered Kentucky, Tennessee and Arkansas among other schools before making his choice. Florida guard Andrew Nembhard says he was communicating daily with the 6-foot-10 forward in the latter stages of that recruiting process.
Blackshear considers Florida a “hand-in-glove fit.”
Blackshear averaged 11.2 points and 6 rebounds at Virginia Tech last year while playing for Buzz Williams, who has since left for Texas A&M. Blackshear and Williams both said they don’t know quite what to expect when Florida visits Texas A&M on Feb. 12.
Blackshear says “it’s going to be really weird because I’m used to being in those huddles with him, getting ready for games with him.”
Auburn coach Bruce Pearl says he’s not worried about the prospect of a notice of allegations from the NCAA.
Pearl said Wednesday at SEC media day that he is “very confident in the process.” Auburn is expecting to receive a notice of allegations at some point stemming from a federal investigation into corruption in college basketball.
Former Auburn assistant coach Chuck Person has been sentenced in federal court for accepting bribes to steer players to a financial adviser. The NCAA held current players Austin Wiley and Danjel Purifoy for the entire 2017-18 season and Purifoy missed part of last season after they or their families accepted money from Person.
Pearl is not accused of wrongdoing by federal investigators.
The coach says, “I think everything that we’ve gone through over the last couple of years – I always say that adversity reveals character way more than it builds it.”
Pearl says “the last couple of years our character has been revealed because these have been challenging times. We’ve done a lot of things the right way in that situation. We’re not done yet. But I’m confident in the process.”
The Tigers reached the Final Four for the first time in program history last season.
Georgia coach Tom Crean expects a “huge impact” from Anthony Edwards and says the highly touted freshman doesn’t realize yet how good he can be.
Edwards was the nation’s No. 2 overall prospect in his high school class according to composite rankings of recruiting sites compiled by 247Sports. The Bulldogs are counting on the 6-foot-5 guard to spark a program coming off an 11-21 season and 13th-place finish in the SEC.
Crean says Edwards can be an “outstanding” offensive player and “elite” defensive player and that the freshman “doesn’t even really have an idea of how fast he is, how good he can be.”
Crean says one reason is Edwards’ youth; he just turned 18 years old on Aug. 5.
The Southeastern Conference has a new wave of highly rated recruits to replace departed stars, Kentucky remains the favorite and two programs could be in the NCAA crosshairs.
Those are among the storylines for SEC men’s basketball media day held Wednesday in Birmingham.
Among those taking the podium are LSU coach Will Wade and Auburn’s Bruce Pearl. Both programs are coming off terrific seasons but also were among those caught up in a federal investigation into corruption in and around college basketball.
Auburn has said it expects to receive a notice of allegations from the NCAA, as North Carolina State and Kansas already have.
On the court, teams welcomed some five-star recruits. Georgia brought in freshman Anthony Edwards, rated the No. 2 overall recruit. Florida got graduate transfer Kerry Blackshear along with five-star prospect Scottie Lewis. Kentucky’s latest class of talented freshmen includes Tyrese Maxey and Kahlil Whitney. LSU has Trendon Watford.
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